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Praying for a path to peace

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Praying for a path to peace

AUSTRALIA'S multiculturalism is being sorely tested in Melbourne's north where the Muslim community wants to build a mosque.

This is hardly surprising as Coolaroo and Broadmeadows have one of the nation's biggest Muslim communities. The issue is more that the mosque is to be built next door to a Christian church.

St Mary's Ancient Church of the East is attended by the Assyrian community.

An Australian Christians candidate for the Senate says the mosque would be a constant reminder of the trauma Assyrian refugees faced in Iraq.

Vickie Janson says that is "not to say the neighbours are going to be a problem, but the building of this mosque will trigger their trauma".

The proposed mosque, which is to be twice the size of the church, has raised passions in both communities.

A protest by about 1000 people, many of them members of St Mary's Ancient Church of the East, was held outside the offices of Hume City Council when council approved a planning application by the Shia Muslim Al Sadiq Foundation.

The council says the mosque meets local and state laws. But has enough been done to avoid a cultural and religious confrontation, and should a meeting of the broader community be called with leaders from the Christian and Muslim groups involved?

What has become a disturbing community issue must not be allowed to degenerate.

The Assyrian and Muslim congregations live in a country whose values of tolerance and acceptance should be respected.

There is a danger of these communities falling prey to the divisions they left behind when they made Australia their new home.

There must be a spirit of compromise, not a spirit of anger and distrust.

Assyrian and Muslim leaders should preach mutual tolerance to avoid reviving old conflicts.



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